By Emily Edmondson, Junior, Religion Major (Emily was recently awarded the Pat and Vicki Wardlaw Scholarshop at St. Peter’s 2nd Annual Awards Dinner & Dance. Submitting an essay about ‘how their Catholic faith has grown since entering college’ was part of the application process. Below is the essay she submitted.)
When I came to Baylor as a Freshman, I had only just recently become Catholic. I had already begun to love Baylor before this conversion, but was nervous that being in a non-Catholic environment would diminish the zeal I had for my new faith. The summer before my Freshman year I got the opportunity to speak with Catholic scholar Dr. Michael Barber who, while Catholic, had elected to attend a non-Catholic Christian University as an undergraduate. Upon asking him what I should do to keep my faith strong, he responded with this: “Make sure to say the Rosary every day, and make sure you find a place where you can consistently attend Mass on Sunday.”
While I can’t promise to have successfully prayed the Rosary every day, despite good intentions, the latter of that advice was easily accomplished, and not in the way that I had really expected. Finding a place to go to Mass regularly on Sunday was easy, and I could go on to laud the convenience and easy-involvement of opportunities at St. Peter’s, but I would imagine that my readers already know these things, and to use that ecclesial idiom, it would be like preaching to the choir. What I discovered when I found a place to go to Mass was actually a community, one that extended beyond the walls of a Catholic Student Center and into Baylor and Waco.
So I was strengthened by finding this place, and, of course, strengthened by the Mass itself and receiving our Lord in the Eucharist, but I was strengthened by that community too. Aristotle once said that “a friend is a second self,” and, metaphysics aside, this rings true in my experience of college so far. Finding others going through similar things in similar places who also shared a love for Christ and for the Church and for people in general was able to keep me true to these convictions. I held these strong desires and they were employed and challenged in different ways as I learned new ways to pray, like the Liturgy of the Hours; and new hymns to sing – can you believe I had never heard the Tantum Ergo?; and new things to read about the faith – Amy Freeman always has a good saint book to recommend.
My faith is constantly growing by these new experiences in community. My experience has been this: Inspired by the grace God gives to us, we who live together in community, constantly seeking Him are inspired by His image in others so that our perceptions are constantly blurred, and constantly refocused onto Him. To me this concept is reminiscent of something the newly elected Pope Francis said in a homily from 2005 about living in community:
“To walk in assembly like Joseph and Mary have done, is to do together the passion-ed experience of discerning with others, so that it may be God who writes our story. To walk in assembly like the travelers from Emmaus have done, is to enter into the “time of God,” so that his accompanying presence permits us to deepen our true identity and to be aware of our mission. To walk in assembly is to put ourselves in the occasions of dialogue on the “way”, like the disciples who followed Jesus have done.”
While I could claim intellectual increase as a strengthening of my faith in the academic environment of Baylor, it pales in comparison to the strength found in prayer and Christian community. The Trinity itself is the fundamental model of community, and I am thankful that I have been able to grow in such a way here thus far, and trust that the Baylor/St. Peter’s community will continue to challenge and inspire me.